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  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.
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Entries in justice (68)

Sunday
Feb072010

A blessing for today... May God bless you with discomfort...

I came across this wonderful Franciscan blessing earlier today. It reminded me that I so quickly become comfortable in my life. I very quickly forget that I am saved by Christ to serve others, and in order to do that I need to be able to experience the pain and struggle of those amongst whom God is sending me.


There is a great Church in Pretoria that has the slogan (in Afrikaans) 'Leef iemand raak' The best translation I can give is something along the lines of 'live your life into the lives of others', or 'in your living, make sure you encounter others'.

I too easily get busy, distracted, selfish and when this happens I forget what it means to truly live - to live one's life for others. Here's the blessing - I would love to hear how you remain mindful of the needs, cares, and struggles of others. Please do share some insights that help you to remain connected and intentional about living your life as a gift from God, intended to be given generously for others.

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.
May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour,
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide,
be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore.
AMEN

Wednesday
Jun112008

Globalization - tariffs and subsidies, are they merely 'sophisticated' bribes?

One of the functions that I have in my new post is responding to questions and queries from persons across the globe who are trying to understand our particular approach to establishing the Gospel of Jesus Christ (with all that entails - including justice, mercy and equity).

Today I received an email from a person who read one of the books that we suggest on healthy and responsible principles for being a Christian business person.  The person who enquired was referring to Chapter 16 of Ed Silvoso's book called 'Transformation'.  In this Chapter (among other things) Ed discusses how Christians should work against corruption and the abuse of economics to enslave people - a reality that is contrary to the principles of God's Kingdom.  Among other things he has a brilliant discussion on bribes (something that is common in Africa), and the use of 'tariffs' and 'subsidies' (something that is more common in the Western world, and among 'superpowers').  
The person who sent the email wanted to know how one could equate tariffs and subsidies with bribes.
Here's the response that I sent.  What do you think?  Anything I've missed, or misunderstood?
The core of the matter is simply that bribes, abusive subsidies, and enslaving tariffs all have a similar foundation – unjust and undeserved financial gain (often at the expensive of the good of others).  Tariffs and subsidies are however, much subtler and less easily identifiable as destructive economic practices.  And, the matter is complicated and compounded when such tariffs and subsidies have national (or multinational) legal backing.

 

Subsidies and tariffs are somewhat complex in the global economy since what they seem to do is either hedge and protect a certain group, or create space for a group to operate where they would otherwise not have the capacity to operate.  So, for example, South Africa is very fortunate to be strong in agriculture.  If there complete free trade it is likely that we could supply maize and wheat to Europe and the US that is both cheaper and possible of a higher quality (simply because we have an abundance of natural resources, arable land, and labour is much cheaper).   However, because of subsidies in the European Union farmers in those regions have their products subsidised so that they can offer them at a much cheaper rate.  The long and the short of such subsidies (in very broad generalizations) is that they keep the poor impoverished and do not take into account the necessity to spread wealth throughout the global economy (rather for political reasons it is kept within the wealthier regions).

The question that one would ask is whether God favours any one nation more than another?  In God's economy would it be pleasing to God that some suffer while others prosper – even when they are both equally productive, faithful, and fruitful in their labours?  So, the challenge is for those who make 'global deals' to keep God's picture of the world, and the world's economy in mind.  It is quite possible that a well intended deal could have an extremely negative impact upon others elsewhere in the world.  Of course my view is awash with generalizations and assumptions.  The point is simply that one must consider the impact of one's choices, not just by economic measures, but by the measure of the standards of God's Kingdom and God's desired economy for ALL the persons on earth.

 

Sunday
Nov042007

[Pic] See the knife in Jake White's back...

I'm off to Durban for some meetings at the University of Kwazulu Natal. Let me say right at the outset that it is great to be a Stormers supporter in Sharks country... [wiki links inserted for non-South African readers]. I'm fairly certain that this is the one occasion on which God doesn't mind me harboring secret feelings of superiority... I'm sure God feels the same (after all, God is also a Stormers fan! Want proof? Well, let's do the literalist test... Please read your bible from cover to cover and see if the words 'Shark' or 'Bluebull', or even the current champions 'Cheetah', appear in there... Back already? So what's the verdict?! Not there are they!! However, did you notice the word 'Storm' numerous times!? Yup, just goes to show who God supports, that's why he snuck their name in there plenty times!) Anyway enough of God's team the Stormers...

[PS. if you're looking for a HILARIOUS take on God and Sports, please read Stephen Colbert's book "I am America, and so can you!" I read it on Friday night - it is offensive in more ways than I've had hidings from my dad for taunting the neighbors dogs! But, I laughed, and that is good.]

Now back to Rugby...

I am always intrigued by those 'sports clothing and accessory' stores in the airport departures lounge (here in South Africa at least). Seeing the Springbok merchandise one sale got me thinking about the world cup, the people associated with it, and the money that is being made (and not being made) - there's a lot to be won and lost around the sport of Rugby at the moment. And, wherever there is money and power there is sure to be some controversy.

So, there, right in the centre of it all, you have a South African icon, Jake White, sticking it to the man!! Good on you Jake!

No, please understand that I am not opposed to transformation in Sport - but, sport is sport! Have you ever considered what the AIM of team sports are? The AIM is to construct a team of persons that are so good at their GAME that no other team can beat them... That's the aim... You choose the BEST people to put into the team in order to achieve that aim... IT'S A GAME!

By my simple little mind the answer is development, not quotas. We should be developing better 'black' rugby players at school to feed our national teams in years to come, and let me add we should also be developing better white soccer players to feed our almost entirely black soccer teams in years to come... It's about being the best - that's why its a GAME!!!

Anyway, Jake stuck to his guns, refused interference from the politicians, and it came at a personal cost. He called the nonsense of the SARFU Rugby bosses for what it was, and still had the courage, determination, skill and single mindedness to help us win the World Cup.

Then, he chose to stick it to the politically entwined bosses by walking away from a very lucrative coaching job, which I am fairly sure he would have had to be considered for if he had applied, after all he has just lead us to victory. Public sentiment would at least have counted for something...

In all seriousness, I am quite certain that the truth of the conflict between Jake White and SARFU is somewhere in between what each of them is saying.

However, it did just remind me of two things:

First, that what Paul tells us in Colossians 3:23-24,

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Not that I am suggesting that Jake White was doing anything for the Lord - however, I am saying that in general it is wise to do Godly things, for God's glory, not seeking any other reward except God's 'well done'. That way you will receive what God wishes to bless you with, regardless of what the rest of the world does.

Second, I was reminded that the real world is quite a cut throat place! Even sport is not a safe place anymore - it CERTAINLY is not fun and games! It is politics and money...

Here's to you Jake!

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Thursday
Oct252007

A black South African wearing an AWB Uniform... A powerful advert for justice!

This is an incredible advert... It shows a black South African man wearing an old 'Khaki' uniform from the white supremacist group, the AWB. You can find out more about the advert on this link to adforum.

The caption reads [translated from Afrikaans]

"Any old clothes will do - you wouldn't be seen dead in these clothes, but for a homeless person they could mean the difference between life and death. Please donate any clothes that you no longer need"


Call the Salvation Army on 011 718 6746

 

Monday
Oct222007

A Philadelphia woman gets raped twice, once by a man at gunpoint, then by the American justice system.

The following bizarre story comes from the Philadelphia news. A woman sex worker was raped by a man at gunpoint who forced her to have sex with him and three other men. When the matter was taken to court the Judge dropped the charges of rape and held the man on the lesser charge of "theft of services." Sounds like another case of injustice to me!

What on earth is the world coming to!?

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Monday
Oct082007

A prayer for the world... Acceptance, God's Character, Christ's ministry, and our responsibility.

Yesterday I had the great joy of preaching at Calvary Methodist Church in Midrand (just between Johannesburg and Pretoria). My friends Alan Storey and Siviwe Waqu are the ministers of this incredible congregation. I have the great fortune of traveling throughout Southern Africa visiting many of our Methodist Churches. Each Church that I visit has some unique and special element that makes it a gift from God to the world, and a gift from the faithful members of that congregation to the Kingdom of God (I like to think of Churches as being gifted, and being gifts).

Calvary is one of the most remarkable Churches in the world! I have the great pleasure of preaching there every few weeks (mostly when Alan is traveling to Sudan, or the USA, or somewhere in South Africa, to do the 'Manna and Mercy' course (do a google search for 'Manna and Mercy' and 'Daniel Erlander'). It is always humbling, because he is a far more gifted and prophetic preacher than I shall ever be. However, what makes the experience so wonderful is that this is perhaps the most integrated congregation in the 6 nations that make up the Southern African Methodist Conference.

I will never forget the first Sunday that I was asked to preach there (way back in 2004). In the morning service as I presided over the sacrament of Holy Communion I had an elderly white woman, a young Indian woman, a young black professional man, an older black homeless man (who lived in the shelter at the Church), and myself a young white male, behind the communion table. It reflected the diversity of the Kingdom of God, all ages, all races, varied demographic, economic, and theological positions, various sexual orientations, and varied needs and desires. Yet we were all united in service of Christ our King - united in our common need for salvation, forgiveness, and acceptance and love in the Body of Christ. That was perhaps the first time in my life that truly understood the mystery of the Eucharistic meal.
This is truly what the Gospel LOOKS like... Not just what it sounds like!

Yesterday I preached a message on 'Acceptance' (you can download the MS Word transcript of the sermon here: Acceptance7Oct07.doc - if anyone is interested) - it was based on that question 'What does the Gospel look like?' Sitting in the congregation were young people, old people, white people, black people, gay people, straight people - in some ways it felt like preaching to the choir, or trying to convert the already converted. Yet, I realise that there are still issues and prejudices that needed to be address and dealt with. My prejudice against those persons who will not lovingly open the Church to all. There were men in the congregation who struggled to submit to the leadership of women. There were parents who struggled to accept the new perspectives, lifestyles, and choices, of their Children. There were HIV + positive people who were struggling to accept their status. There many, many of us, who needed hear that acceptance is part of God's nature, that it is central to the ministry of Jesus, and that it has to be foundational in the ministry of every disciple for the Kingdom of God.

So, what did we do? Well, we prayed! We were lead in prayer by Siphiwe Ndlovu, an incredible lay preacher (and a former colleague of my wife Megan). He lead us in a prayer that blew the cobwebs out of my soul! Afterwards I commented both to him, and Alan, that Siphiwe's prayer was enough... I did not need songs, liturgy, sermons - all that I needed to was that prayer. I will pray it over the next few days, or weeks, in the hope that it will become a part of the common life I share with all the people who God loves and accepts - even the one's that I struggle to accept.

The context that shaped Siphiwe's prayer was an experience on a previous weekend where he and other members of the Congregation engaged in 'Kairos' prison ministry. Kairos prison ministry is much like the Emmaus movement, but it is directed lovingly towards persons who are in prison.

Here is Siphiwe's magnificent prayer:

We bring now our chains to you who have set us free from the clutches of sin and death and brought us new life. Even though you have freed us we continue to be bound, our sin forever seeks us, fears and anxiety form our shadow, suffering and many problems hold us captive, unwilling to release us, to live fully the life to which you have called us. So we cry out to you this morning. Look upon this world with merciful eyes. Look upon us with merciful, love-filled eyes and release us. Free us from that which entangles us.

Oh Lord we bring to you this morning those among us bound by fear. Lord you know us, you see us, we who are immobilized by fear of failure and rejection; we who are unable to speak the truth or have meaningful relationships; we who are fearful of tomorrow; we who are bound in the mentality of scarcity, afraid to release our resources of time and money to free others from the chains of poverty and hunger. Oh Lord you see us and you see our chains – so look upon those who are caught in improper relationships, unable to escape. Have compassion upon us, those for whom the fear of death and crime are real as a result of having had guns pointed at us and our privacy violated. Those of us who have tasted death and live in perpetual fear that it will come soon. See those of us caught in many addictions – drugs, alcohol, busyness, work and sin. Jesus, you came so that we could have life in all its abundance, our fears bind us and limit our lives, our addictions call us back to feed them again and time again. Come again and again, come everyday and free us!

Oh graceful God, we pray for those bound by grinding chains of poverty. Parents who have to sacrifice their dignity to stand at traffic lights to beg from people who will not even look at them. Children who have to forego school and opportunities to learn and grow because they have no money, families for whom the rains are not good news because their roofs leak or they have no shelter.

Kids who are unable to enjoy the carefree ways of youth, caught in an adult world of being providers for their siblings; bound in chains of a world they can hardly cope with. Laughter has dried, questions of what games to play replaced with heavier questions of what they shall eat or what they will do if their parents die.

And Lord we pray for those who are bound in the system of wealth and the pursuit of it. Those for whom riches and fantasies of having more mean everything; those who sacrifice the relationships with spouses and children as they want more of the things that make them look good on the outside while they are dry and empty on the inside. Look upon those caught in an untenable situation of debt with no relief in sight. Come, Lord and loose their chains!

Even as we pray for freedom and release, Lord you know that for most of us chains are all we know. We are so used to being bound that the idea of freedom is threatening in itself. So we continue to resist your freedom. We long for it and yet do not have courage to take hold of it. We pray for courage to be free, to live free, fulfilling and life-giving lives. Root out all systems of oppression, those that are institutional and those that are entrenched in our hearts and minds.

And Lord we pray for those who are bound and live behind prison walls. For those who have wronged society we pray that you will bring them to a place of repentance and a new life. We pray for those who are in jails of the world. We pray for those who are in the jails of Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Darfur and for all those who fight to free their people from the chains of dictatorial powers. You Lord are on the side of the oppressed and the bound, for you know too well what it means to be bound, to be tried unfairly and to be given an unjust sentence. So we know that when we pray to you, we pray to the one who can emphathise, and one who intercedes on our behalf. The world is bound in chains – come now and free us – for whom the son frees, is free indeed. Amen

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Tuesday
Sep252007

An evening prayer (from Durban).

Megie, Courtney, Liam and I have taken three days together in Durban. After almost 6 weeks apart we cherish times such as these! I wish I could take more time to be with them.

Many who know me, know that I never travel without my copy of "A guide to prayer for all God's people". For anyone who is looking for a truly superb guide for their personal devotions, this is one of the very best resources out there! It follows the common lectionary, has daily scripture readings from the Old and New Testaments, well written prayers, and superb reflections by well respected scholars, authors, and spiritual parents.

Since the 17th of September I have had the prayer below on my lips - it carried me through the Conference deliberations, and now replenishes my spirit, and my love for my family and my vocation. This little prayer reminds me that I must not fear too much work, nor having to take on tasks that are far greater than my limited abilities, it reminds me that I must not recoil from conflict, or be too concerned about how God will care for me and others - it reminds me that I must simply and courageously seek to ask the question "How will I faithfully follow Christ in this situation?" Whether it is engaging in mission outside of the Church, or mission within it, what Christ requires is faithfulness. Perhaps the prayer may be of some use to you?

If I have wounded any soul today,
If I have caused one foot to go astray,
If I have walked in my own willful way -
Good Lord, forgive!

If I have uttered idle words or vain,
If I have turned aside from want or pain,
Lest I myself should suffer through the strain -
Good Lord, forgive!

If I have craved for joys that are not mine,
If i have let my wayward heart repine,
Dwelling on things of earth, not things divine -
Good Lord, forgive!

If I have been perverse, or hard, or cold,
If I have longed for shelter in Thy fold
When Thou hast given me some part to hold -
Good Lord, forgive!

Forgive the sins I have confessed to Thee,
Forgive the secret sins I do not see,
That which I know not, Father, teach thou me -
Help me to live.

- C. Maud Battersby

Monday
Jul232007

Double speak...

Frere Maternity Ward report.....

Do a google search for the words above... You'll find a remarkable example of 'double speak'. In recent months 43 babies have died in the maternity ward. Our minister of health, the notorious Manto Tshabalala Msimang, suggests that while there are severe staff shortages (at the time of a recent visit, just one nurse and one nurse's assistant on duty to care for 32 babies), and outdated and poor equipment, these DID NOT lead to the deaths of the babies... I seem to remember someone saying, I have come to proclaim healing...

Yes, and Zimababwe has plenty of food, fuel, and the healthiest economy in the world! Who the heck are you fooling!? Whilst your words may say one thing, we can see the truth. Was it not the Christ who said: I have come to preach good news to the poor.

Kliptown... As I watched the news this evening it might as well have been 30 years ago!! What I saw were scenes that reminded me of the kind of oppression we faced under the Apartheid government. Scores of police officers firing tear gas and rubber bullets at civilians who are expressing their dismay at poor service delivery. How quickly the liberator is turning into an oppressor. We have much work to do, and sadly the voice of the Church is silent. Yes, that same Jesus said: I have come to proclaim freedom...

Let us never forget!

Today I also heard double speak from within the Church. A document arrived for me, sent by three of my Methodist colleagues, the document encourages Christians to sign their names in support a view that excludes persons from the hospitality and generosity of God's loving grace. This double speaking document encourages Christians to declare that the Church should choose whom the God of grace wishes to bless... It says that certain persons are not welcomed by the open arms of Christ, that they are not accepted unconditionally. This document encourages Christians to exclude people, and to withhold blessing, in the name of the Christ who died to welcome and bless all people! This is double speak. This kind of ungracious exclusion is just two steps from the hate that led to the rape, torture, and murder of Sizakele and Simone in Soweto, on a Sunday, just two weeks ago... After all, if the Church says they're an abomination, and God doesn't love them, why shouldn't we kill them? Thankfully there is a Lord who said: He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted...

Thankfully there is great hope! Today that hope came from a magnificent and challenging sermon delivered by one of the senior students at our seminary, the Rev Christian Mokone. He reminded us of God's desire for mercy, justice, grace, and our responsibility to honour God through social holiness, before we claim that God is honoured by personal piety... Let your holiness be reflected in the society in which you live. Don't say that you love God, but don't love those whom God loves - that is double speak! Jesus came to:

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners, [a]

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor. (Isa 61:1-3)

Surely a Christ follower should actually follow the way of Christ? I pray for US! We are a sinful people, and I am a sinful person who wants to honour God both in what I say, and in what I do, and in how what I say and do helps other to passionately do what Jesus did. I pray that we would have enough love to love the people that Jesus loves... I want to belong to a Church that would much rather bless people, than bless their pets, that would much rather live the values of God's Kingdom than engage in empty words that try to draw lines, exclude, condemn, and limit God's grace.

Could God ever find glory in double speak? Hear what Amos had to say (Amos 8:4-12)

4 Hear this, you who trample the needy
and do away with the poor of the land,

5 saying,
"When will the New Moon be over
that we may sell grain,
and the Sabbath be ended
that we may market wheat?"—
skimping the measure,
boosting the price
and cheating with dishonest scales,

6 buying the poor with silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
selling even the sweepings with the wheat.

7 The LORD has sworn by the Pride of Jacob: "I will never forget anything they have done.

8 "Will not the land tremble for this,
and all who live in it mourn?
The whole land will rise like the Nile;
it will be stirred up and then sink
like the river of Egypt.

9 "In that day," declares the Sovereign LORD,
"I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.

10 I will turn your religious feasts into mourning
and all your singing into weeping.
I will make all of you wear sackcloth
and shave your heads.
I will make that time like mourning for an only son
and the end of it like a bitter day.

11 "The days are coming," declares the Sovereign LORD,
"when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.

12 Men will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the LORD,
but they will not find it.

Pray, work, love, and have the courage to live as Jesus did. My friends, there can be no greater passion, no greater sacrifice, no witness greater, than living as Jesus did... That's what is means to be a Christ follower!

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